THREE DECADES OF BEER FESTIVAL IN ZRENJANIN
As the capital of the District, in 1769 Zrenjanin (former Bečkerek and Petrovgrad) got the right to two fair events a year and after a while the right to two more so each season could begin with a great fair. The need for a market, meetings of every kind, excitement and joy, seemed to increase the number of fairs. In addition to the variety of goods, there were also rich offer of treats, halva manufacturers, meat roasters and a beer which was for a very long period of time an exclusive drink. Especially in the warm summer days of fairs, every well-done job was brewed with some cold beer, at first from the simplest wooden cooler and later from cooler chained in sheet metal. The moment when, in exchange for German kreutzer or Hungarian forint, people were taking a sparkling beer mug was sort of a ceremony and a moment to remember. At the end of the 1930s, fairs were losing their importance. Trade was being developed and specialized which resulted in the disappearance of great fairs and all that was left was nostalgia for that kind of occasions and fun.
In 1986, there was a desire to organize “something” that would stir up this plain in a warm summer days. A small group of people was gathered: caterers, tourism workers and journalists, all with the idea of organizing a mass event that would have local touristic, economic and cultural characteristics, with the focus on cooling the summer heat and warming up the crowd – the answer was beer. Why beer, some would ask? Because apart from the beer drinking tradition, people of Zrenjanin also have a tradition in producing one. Beer craft in this region began in 1745. The beer originated in Veliki Bečkerek, passed through Petrovgrad and poured into Zrenjanin.
Brewing master Sebastian Krajzezen opened the first beer brewing workshop and ever since the intertwining of city life and the life of the brewery is continuous. In 1878, one of the largest landowners in Vojvodina, Lazar Dunđerski, bought a brewery and expanded it significantly. He brought the best architects from Prague who designed a great complex of buildings of exceptional aesthetic value. The quality of Zrenjanin beer reached its peak in the 1970s, while in the 1980s the brewery reached its maximum by producing 406,000 hl of beer and famous Tut Gut (non-alcoholic beer). Going through transition and privatization caused the decline of production and, shortly after, the cessation of work. The Zrenjanin beer industry, with more than 260 years of experience, is now again waiting for its time. If nothing else, people of Zrenjanin will not allow this event to be interrupted because of the memory of those happier times of one brewery.
The Beer Days festival was created in 1986 in honor of 240 years of beer crafting in Zrenjanin. Those first Beer Days were organized by the Zrenjanin Tourist Association and the Catering Company Vojvodina with a few more enthusiasts. A horse-drawn carriage – from which free beer was poured all over the city – invited people of Zrenjanin to socialize and to have a great time. Children’s ensembles were playing and dancing, poets were reciting and painters were painting, the smell of fish stew was spreading all around Begej river… Although at first everything resembled a fair, the physiognomy of future meetings of the citizens of Zrenjanin with their fellow citizens and numerous guests was slowly forming. The event was held every year in late summer, “moving” from the last days of August to the first days of October to be finally settled in the last week of August.
For full three decades, great beer and two basically different contents are attracting about twenty thousand people per day. One part of the event is more rural and the other one is more urban. In downtown of Zrenjanin, diverse range of performances are being held on multiple stages to satisfy different interests and tastes. During that period Zrenjanin becomes a festival city because several smaller festivals are taking place at the same time, among them: International Folklore Festival, Tamburitza Fest, Traditional Folk Art Festival, International Festival of wedding customs and the Festival of bagpipes. In addition to the colorful traditional costumes, there is a traditional competition in rapid beer drinking and the feat of endurance in holding a mug full of beer.
An integral part of the festival is the International Entrepreneurship Fair “INOCOOP”, as well as a mini fair of folk crafts. Accompanying program of the Beer Days also implies sporting events such as a basketball tournament, beach volleyball and promotion of martial arts… In honor of the beverage that is drunk and respected in this region for centuries, every year with some new ideas but also retaining what turned out to be good at bring people together, Zrenjanin’s festival of tourist and cultural type tends to grow up into true festival of beer.